Prescription pill abuse rampant in East Tennessee

By: Mario Boone Email
By: Mario Boone Email

SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Five years ago Ron Atchley couldn't imagine being drug free. He was locked in the grips of a two decade addiction, first to cocaine and weed, then prescription pills.

"Hydrocodone, oxys. It would just hype you up like you could do anything," he said. At the height of Atchley's addiction he was popping five pills a day. He says he spent, "probably $100-$150" every single day. Atchley says he never stole to buy drugs. Instead, he worked two jobs. "One supported my habit, the other was to pay my bills."

Eventually his addiction became too much for Atchley. He surrendered custody of his baby girl, was shunned by family, then got locked up. He was facing life behind bars as a repeat offender. By the grace of the judge and God, they gave me a program I could go to."

There's another person with a front row seat to the ravages of prescription drug abuse. Judge Rex Ogle says 75% of his court docket these days is linked to illegal prescription drugs. He compares pill abuse to another serious drug like meth. "It pales in comparison to the prescription drug problems that we have," said Ogle.

So, why the explosion in pill abuse? Ogle says they're easy to get, especially through so-called pill-mills in Florida. "They have just a tsunami of pain clinics down there."

Five years clean and sober, Atchley has his daughter and his life back. "I could never see even going back to the lifestyle I lived."

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